Random, Waterstone's urged to stay firm over Blair controversy

<p>The former publisher of memoirs by Margaret Thatcher and John Major has urged Random House and Waterstone&#39;s to stay resolute ahead of planned protests against Tony Blair&#39;s signing event at the retailer.</p><p>Eddie Bell, now an agent, ran HarperCollins when it published memoirs by the former Conservative prime ministers. Both Waterstone&#39;s and Random House have faced a storm of controversy since details of the signing were revealed last week. The Stop the War coalition is planning protests at the event at Waterstone&#39;s Piccadilly on 8th September, as well as demonstrations at other branches of the chain.</p><p>However, Bell said: &quot;We had protestors when Mrs Thatcher did her signings. There were 300 people outside a hotel in Edinburgh on one occasion, but it&rsquo;s all part of life&rsquo;s rich tapestry. It&rsquo;s a free country but don&rsquo;t get blown off course because there are a bunch of nutters who want to make a noise.&quot; </p><p>Bell criticised the restrictions at the Waterstone&rsquo;s event preventing members of the public from taking photos or getting books dedicated. &ldquo;We didn&rsquo;t impose any of those rules with Mrs Thatcher. She engaged with everybody and dedicated books. People want to meet former prime ministers, they want to see what they are like. He&rsquo;s got enough security people around him to protect him.&quot;</p><p><a href="../news/126323-free-speech-campaigners-back-waterstones-over-blair.html">Bell&#39;s comments come a day after anti-censorship campaigners wrote to the Guardian criticising authors including AL Kennedy who called on Waterstone&#39;s to cancel the signing. </a></p><p>Meanwhile, Blair&#39;s editor, Hutchinson publisher Caroline Gascoigne said the book was a &quot;refreshing surprise that [it] is so direct, vivid and well-written&quot;. She said: &quot;It&rsquo;s rare in any prime ministerial memoir that you get such an open, conversational tone&mdash;it&rsquo;s an immensely readable book. At the same time, it deals unflinchingly with Blair&rsquo;s decision-making. He wrote every word himself and you hear his voice in the writing.&quot;</p><p>Gascoigne said the book does not end with Blair leaving Downing Street, with the former PM having &quot;strong views&quot; on the political scene after he left office as well as world events.</p><p>She said: &quot;You come away understanding why Tony Blair did what he did. You feel you know him&mdash;there&rsquo;s a sense of openness. You come out knowing a lot about leadership and the loneliness of the decision-making process. Everyone thinks they know what Tony Blair thinks, but only Tony Blair can tell you.&quot;</p>